Whips are used in many areas of horse use and equitation, including horseracing. Using whips can cause pain and suffering to the horses, both directly and if they cause horses to exercise beyond their capability. In addition, whip use on television provides a bad example to viewers and makes the sport look cruel.
The use of the whip in horseracing has been a high profile issue in 2011, since excessive use of the whip was seen in the Grand National. In fact, the number of breaches of use of the whip in racing had been increasing since 2002.
While using a whip is not specifically illegal, the Animal Welfare Act 2006 includes a duty to prevent unnecessary suffering, and this law applies to jockeys, racehorse owners and racecourse managers. The British Horseracing Authority has both a legal and moral duty to minimise whip use to avoid any unnecessary suffering, and to take reasonable steps to ensure the needs of racehorses to avoid pain and suffering.
We believe that reducing welfare problems with the use of the whip need to:
- Ensure horse and jockey safety
- Limit the frequency of use
- Limit the method of use
- Restrict the timing of use
- Apply sufficient and appropriate penalties, including legal penalties
- Provide training and information for jockeys
This and other improvements that we are calling for can be found in our Position statement on the use of the whip in horseracing (pdf 326kb).
The RSPCA welcomed and assisted the British Horseracing Authority enquiry. We hope that the BHA and jockeys will respond to the challenge and make substantial changes to the use of the whip in horse racing. Otherwise, the British Horseracing Authority’s position in law could be questioned, and the future of British horseracing could be threatened.